On the Path to Self-Discovery With the Duchess of York

First published on Huffington Post, 2011-05-20

I’ve always liked Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York. Perhaps it is that she came on the scene when I was a teenage girl and infatuated with the royal weddings, like girls today. Perhaps it was her curly hair, which matched my own. Or her slight chunkiness, which also matched my own. Over the past decade, it’s been sad to watch what seemed to be her spiral downward. Last year, when she was caught on tape in the alleged bribery scandal, it appeared we were witnessing her self-destruction. However, as I watched Oprah’s interview with Sarah last week, I felt hopeful for her again. She still seems a bit shaky and just a little bit desperate, but she also appears to have found at least the trailhead of her own path to self-discovery.

Interspersed throughout the Oprah interview were clips from Sarah’s upcoming series on OWN, “Finding Sarah,” where she is counseled by Dr. Phil and Suze Orman to help her find her way. While I’m not a big fan of on-camera therapy, especially when it’s coming from Suze Orman who hardly seems qualified — I mean, who goes to their financial advisor for help with self-esteem issues? I was struck by one moment in particular when Sarah asks Suze with hopeless frustration in her voice, “How do you get self-worth? I don’t know how to get it!”

I remember years ago asking that question of my therapist with much the same frustration. While I cannot relate to life as a royal, I can certainly relate to Sarah’s personal struggle of not knowing her true value, making destructive choices and self-sabotage, and I know I am not alone.

It is at these low points in life when we realize we are going at it all wrong, that life is just not working, and we begin our own personal journey of self-discovery. For me it was also a journey of spiritual discovery — where I came to discover that I am a spiritual being, that I have within me the power of the “divine,” that I am — like every one else — a unique expression of God. I’m not sure where Sarah’s journey will take her, but I do believe it is a vital journey for every person to take.

A couple of practices were essential for me as I worked through my issues and came to discover my inner peace and confidence. I found that I had to:

Become aware of self-talk

Most of the time, we are unaware of our own thoughts. When we stop for a moment and observe our self-talk, some of us find that the voice in our head can be pretty unpleasant. It’s like hanging out with a nagging critic who points out our faults as we move throughout the day. If we let this critic go unchecked, it can lead to feeling pretty crappy about ourselves.  If we believe we are unloved and unlovable, it’s no wonder we look outside ourselves to fill the inner void.

But we can’t change what we are not aware of. So we need to shine some light on the self-critical thoughts and conversations that are happening in the background of our minds. At first we just need to become the observer and bring awareness to our thoughts and feelings. We can say, “Isn’t that interesting,” as a thought passes through our awareness. That’s enough to release any charge of negativity a thought or feeling may be carrying.

Find peace within

When we feel empty inside, it’s natural to seek someone or something to fill the emptiness. But there is no one or no thing that can give us what we need. Lasting peace, happiness and acceptance can only be found within. If we are having trouble finding peace, it may be that we need to remove some clutter.

Meditation is the most valuable tool we have for uncovering the treasure trove of peace and well-being that is within. In the silence, we touch serenity, we feel our spirits expanding, we feel spacious freedom and, most importantly, we connect with our inner wisdom.

The choice of meditation practices is wide-ranging. It doesn’t need to be complicated or require much special instruction. In Unity, one of the practices we teach is silent meditation. In a recent article in Daily Word, Rev. Carolyne Mathlin offers this simple technique to begin:

Sit quietly in the silence. If you need a focus, follow your breath. If your mind chatters, and it will, just gently return focus to your breath. Dissolve into the silence and let the silence reveal Itself to you.

I do not believe there is any other practice that has been more beneficial to my spiritual growth than meditation. If you don’t have a meditation practice of your own or have let it lapse, I encourage you to start one today and find the peace that lives within you.

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Laura Harvey is the editor of Daily Word, a daily devotional magazine, published by Unity since 1924. Unity emphasizes the practical, everyday application of spiritual principles to help people live more abundant and meaningful lives.


Letting Go: How to Release the Past

First published on Huffington Post, 2011-02-26

A dear friend of mine cannot seem to let go of an old hurt. His marriage ended in the 1970s, and she passed away a few years ago, but thoughts of his ex-wife are still very fresh in his mind. We will be having a conversation, and something unrelated will trigger a memory. Attempts to steer him in another direction usually fail. He is simply unable to let it go.

Stories from our past, unforgiveness and regret distract us from living fully in the present. But how do we let things go and move on?

We all hold on to hurts from time to time. I realized recently I was holding on to a project that had not gone as I had hoped. I wasted way too much energy stewing over what had happened and why. I replayed the project in my mind many times — somewhat compulsively. Nothing could be done about it now; the project was over. I needed to learn from it and let it go, trusting that next time, I would do better.

So how can we let go when we feel compelled to hold on?

Be present

Compulsive thinking contaminates our present reality. When I realized I had been stewing over the project, I asked myself a simple question: Where am I right now? The question snapped me back into present moment awareness. My mind had been in one place while I was in another. We all do this. We may be lying in bed at night, taking a shower or driving to work, but our minds are distracted, or engaged in one-sided arguments, or trying to fix someone or something. Asking ourselves, “Where am I right now?” gives us a chance to step outside the internal dialogue for a moment of peace. Look around you, take a deep breath and notice what you see, hear and feel. Present moment awareness is the point of power and choice. It frees us from our compulsive thoughts.


So often we simply don’t want to accept what has happened. When mistakes are made, we tend to resist, telling ourselves that things should have gone another way. Resistance causes inner turmoil, robbing us of peace in our day-to-day lives. Acceptance brings peace. Learning from past experience is important, of course, but replaying things over and over again just binds us to old hurt, guilt and anger. With awareness and acceptance, we find that the hurtful situation loses its hold on us, and we are free to move on.


Forgiveness is a common stumbling block. We don’t want to let others off the hook for hurt or pain we feel they caused us. But forgiveness begins and ends in our own consciousness. We forgive in order to free <em>ourselves</em> from the bondage of judgment and anger. In Daily Word each month since 1924 we have included a message about forgiveness. I went back into the archives to find this from 1941:

As long as we hold harsh or unforgiving thoughts, we cannot be an open channel for the receptivity of good. They who are unforgiving harm themselves rather than the object of their condemnation, for the hate generated operates only within themselves and leaves its effect solely upon them.

We suffer when we hold on to the past. Do the forgiveness work, let it go and get some relief.

Be grateful

This quote from Kahlil Gibran is profound:

I have learned silence from the talkative, tolerance from the intolerant and kindness from the unkind; yet strangely, I am ungrateful to these teachers.

It’s so true. We learn from the irritants in our lives. At the very least, we learn how not to be. But how often are we actually grateful for the lessons?

Once we become aware of our thoughts, accept the situation as it is and release it through forgiveness, we can then move on to being grateful for it. We can look back and find some aspect of the situation that has had a positive effect on us. Maybe we learned something. Maybe the trouble ultimately resulted in positive changes in our life. We may not be in control of everything that happens to us, but we are absolutely in control of our perception. Stepping into gratefulness for all that life brings is extremely freeing and empowering.

What kind of strategies have you developed to let go of old grudges or compulsive thinking?

Good Enough Just as We Are


First published on Huffington Post, 2010-12-01

More than a year ago a good friend sent me an email that I’ve saved in my inbox. Every now and then I open it. It always makes me smile. She wrote: “Just a reminder, in case you forget: You are perfect in every way. Say it. Know it. Feel it.” I can’t remember what prompted her email, but most likely she noticed I was caught up in self-doubt, as occasionally happens. When expectations are high, deadlines are looming, and my responsibilities are piling up, I tend to get anxious, overwhelmed and unsure of myself, which is exactly the opposite of what’s needed. Feeling inadequate is generally a success-killer.

We all suffer from insecurity at times, but when our internal dialogue turns nasty and mean, it undermines our happiness and our ability to grow and succeed. For me, the chain often starts with a vague sense that I’m not getting enough done, even though I am “doing” all the time. I’m the mother of two boys. I’m a wife. I work full-time, and then some. I’m the cook, the grocery shopper, the house cleaner, the homework assistant, the arbiter of my son’s Xbox screen time. I’m a busy woman! But, to my internal critic, it is never enough. We beat ourselves up for the foolish things we do, the unhealthy habits, the judgmental thoughts, the imperfections.  Soon we find ourselves carrying around a big ball of self-loathing, which can be a real pain.

In The Four Agreements, Don Miguel Ruiz writes, “Humans punish themselves endlessly for not being what they believe they should be.” So why are we constantly trying to be more than we are? Why isn’t this good enough? How do we change our self-loathing into self-love?

Recognizing the illusion of our egoic thoughts is a start. Eckhart Tolle describes it this way, “Behind every negative self-concept is the hidden desire of being the greatest or better than others …. Whenever you feel superior or inferior to anyone, that’s the ego in you.” Being conscious of the voice of our ego is how we release ourselves from the prison of self-judgment and blame. Our true essence is so much deeper than what our ego would have us believe.

We are more than our to-do lists, more than our personalities, more than our bodies or the roles we play in life. We are spiritual beings. We are the physical expression of spiritual power. The late author, metaphysician and theologian Eric Butterworth told us to sing our song of wholeness. He wrote: “Take time to be still and listen to the beat of your heart and feel the throb of your pulse. The universe is celebrating itself in you as an instrument of life. It is singing itself into your soul, saying, ‘You are alive, you are whole, and you are being healed and renewed in a constant rhapsody of life.'”

Imagine how we would live if we believed we were enough, if we were no longer comparing ourselves to others or judging ourselves on some arbitrary scale of bad and good, better and best. We loosen the grip of our inner critic by simply becoming aware of its influence. We don’t need to argue or resist the negative thoughts — just notice them, and affirm the truth as a counterbalance. Every time a thought of shame, guilt, disgust or mild irritation enters our minds, we recognize it and weaken its ability to take hold of our perception. We deny the lie that our egos would have us believe and affirm the truth that we are whole and perfect, just the way we are.

A recent daily message in Daily Word, the magazine for which I serve as editor, suggests the following way out of self-doubt: “I can consciously stop the negative talk in my mind and begin a new kind of conversation. I remember that I am a whole, shining, beloved child of God with unlimited potential. Nothing stops me but my own worries and fears. I have everything I need to succeed through the wisdom and power of God within me.”

When my friend wrote me that note about being perfect, she wasn’t saying I could never make a mistake. She was saying she saw the real me — the divine spark within, the song of my wholeness, my indwelling Christ nature — and she wanted me to see it too.

When we have found peace within ourselves and made peace with our bodies, our skills, our strengths and our weaknesses, we have the key to living happy and fulfilling lives. We just have to stop believing every thought that runs through our minds and start believing the truth of our innate wholeness. We are good enough just as we are.